Family Law

Legal Aid Family Law

The Family Law Unit provides FREE and EXPERIENCED representation in family law matters to victims of intimate partner violence including: victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking.

 

 


 

 

WE WILL HELP YOU WITH ALL OF YOUR LEGAL MATTERS INCLUDING:

  • INJUNCTIONS: (Restraining Orders):

If you have a Temporary Injunction, we could represent you at the Final Hearing for Final Judgment of Injunction for Protection. We may also provide you with advice on whether to file an Injunction and how to go forward with your Temporary Injunction or Order Setting Hearing on Petition. For more information on how to obtain an Injunction, please read the articles on our website entitled, “How To Obtain an Injunction” and “The Nuts and Bolts of Petitioning For A Restraining Order.”

  • DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE: (Divorce)

We represent victims of domestic violence in their dissolution of marriage cases.

  • PATERNITY:

We represent victims of domestic violence in petitioning for, or defending, a Paternity action. We can offer advice on whether to file a Paternity action.



HOW TO APPLY FOR FAMILY LAW REPRESENTATION:

*If your case is TIME SENSITIVE because:

  1. You have obtained a TEMPORARY INJUNCTION (restraining order), you HAVE A HEARING DATE, and you want an Attorney to help you, or
  2. You have BEEN SERVED with family law documents,

 
**COME INTO OUR OFFICE IMMEDIATELY WITH ALL OF YOUR PAPERWORK!**

 

* If you want to file for divorce against your spouse, or want to file a Paternity action, come to our office to fill out an application Monday through Friday before 3pm.  Give us a safe address for mail. You will receive a letter from us about your eligibility. Or, you can call 954-358-5644, Monday, Wednesday or Friday mornings (9AM-12PM) to complete an application by phone.                                                                                                                      

SAFETY ALERT:

Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer or call the Florida Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 500-1119 or TTY (800) 621-4202.      



HOW TO OBTAIN AN INJUNCTION

The Domestic Violence Department in the Clerk of Court’s Office will help you complete the paperwork necessary to ask the Court for an INJUNCTION FOR PROTECTION AGAINST DOMESTIC, REPEAT, DATING, STALKING OR SEXUAL VIOLENCE (Restraining Order). If you are a victim of domestic, repeat, dating, stalking or sexual violence and you are in genuine fear, this Department will assist you in filing the papers to petition the Court for an Injunction for Protection against your abuser.

Location: CLERK OF COURT- Domestic Violence Department

BROWARD COUNTY CENTRAL COURTHOUSE
Domestic Violence Department and Pro Se Unit
201 S.E. 6th Street, West Wing, Room 02140
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Phone Number: 954-831-5570, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (filings stop at 5:00 p.m.)

BROWARD COUNTY WEST REGIONAL COURTHOUSE
100 N. Pine Island Road – Room 180
Plantation, FL 33324
Phone Number: 954-831-5612
Hours of Operation: Opens at 8:00 a.m. Filings stop at 2:00 p.m. All filings after 2:00 p.m. must be filed at the Broward County Central Courthouse located at 201 SE 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 or through the eFiling Portal.

Please see www.browardclerk.org for more information.

If a Domestic Violence incident occurs after the listed hours please contact 954-463-0911 for after hour procedures to apply for an Injunction.

TRY NOT TO BRING CHILDREN! This process may take 3-7 hours.

***If you park in the Courthouse garage at the main courthouse, you can ask the Domestic Violence Clerk to validate your parking while you are filling out the Petition. Otherwise, bring money for parking.

If you have one, bring a government issued identification card (such as a driver’s license).

If you are a victim of domestic, stalking, repeat, dating, or sexual violence and you are truly in fear, this is how to get a restraining order against the abuser:

  1. Tell the Domestic Violence Clerk that you want to obtain an Injunction.
  2. Complete all documents asking for an injunction. Go to the Domestic Violence Clerk and file your papers asking for the Injunction.
  3. You will be told about the Injunction process including the Emergency Service Packet, how the papers are served on the other side, about the possible orders the Judge may enter temporarily, and about the Final Hearing.
  4. You may speak with a caseworker to confidentially discuss your safety needs, and obtain referrals for counseling, to shelters, or to other community agencies.
  5. You will then wait for the Judge’s ruling. You will either receive a Temporary Injunction, an Order Setting Hearing or a denial of your request from the Judge.

         ***If you intend to have an Attorney represent you at the Final Hearing on the Temporary Injunction, get a copy of the Petition for Injunction that you filed, so that the Attorney can review your pleadings.**

  1. You must appear at any follow up hearing date that is indicated in the Temporary Injunction or the Injunction will likely be dismissed.

To apply for representation at Coast to Coast Legal Aid, please bring all of your legal documents, identification (if you have one), and any evidence with you.

  



The Nuts and Bolts of Petitioning For A Restraining Order
By Jane L. Duff, Former Domestic Violence Staff Attorney, Broward County Clerk of Court                       

                        If you have been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, repeat, dating or sexual violence, you can file for a restraining order through the Clerk of Court at the Broward County Courthouse, 201 Southeast 6th Street, West Wing, Room 02140, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Office Hours are 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. The Clerk of Court’s Family Intake Unit will help you in filling out the proper forms.

                        In addition, as of March 2016, you can apply for an Injunction between the hours of 8am and 2pm at the West Regional Courthouse, 100 N. Pine Island Road, Room 180 in Plantation.

                        Emergency restraining orders under the Domestic Violence Statute are available after 5:00 p.m. or on weekends and holidays. To access the emergency procedures you should contact the Henderson Mental Health Center Crisis Line at 954-463-0911.

                        There are no court fees for filing a restraining order. If you parked in the courthouse garage, you can ask the Domestic Violence Clerk to validate your parking.

                        You will need to bring a picture identification for yourself, and if possible, a picture of the abuser. Bring any important dates or notes regarding the abuse, and any information you have about the abuser such as the home or work address, birthday, social security number, etc.

                        The petition asks what the other person did to you. You will need to write down the most recent violence that occurred, when it occurred, and be very specific about the violence, and/or stalking. Be prepared to write down specific examples of past violence and when it happened.

                        When your paperwork is completed, it will be reviewed by a Judge. The Judge may defer, deny or grant your petition.

                        If your petition for the restraining order is deferred, a hearing will be set within 15 days, without a temporary injunction being issued. The Court will consider whether an injunction should be entered at the hearing. If you receive an Order Setting Hearing and you believe you have additional incidents or further details to add to your petition, you may file a two page Supplemental Form as soon as possible (usually within 3 days). It will be reviewed with your original petition and a decision will be made again to see if a Temporary Injunction should be granted.

                        If your petition for the restraining order is denied, the evidence presented in the petition was insufficient to allow the Court to issue an Injunction for Protection. You may also file a Supplemental Form if your petition is denied.

                        If your restraining order was granted, your temporary order is in effect for only fifteen (15) days. To have it extended for a longer period of time, you must attend a court hearing in approximately 15 days. The hearing time, date and courtroom numbers can be found on the first page of your restraining order. If you do not attend this hearing, or you arrive late to the hearing, your restraining order will probably be dismissed. If the other party has not been served, you should still attend the hearing so the Judge can extend the temporary restraining order.

                        Service is important because although your restraining order is valid when signed by a Judge, it is not enforceable until the person you are filing against has been properly served his/her copy.      

 



RESOURCES FOR ADDITIONAL HELP:

Domestic Violence Department and Pro Se Unit
Broward Clerk of Court Broward County Courthouse
201 S.E. Sixth Street, West Wing
Room WW02140
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Family Court Self Advocacy Program
(Free Family Law Information)
Room WW 04101

West Regional Courthouse
Domestic Violence Department
100 N. Pine Island Road – Room 180
Plantation, FL 33324
954-831-5570

www.browardclerk.org          

 

Department of Revenue
Child Support Enforcement Customer Service
1900 W. Commercial Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309
1-850-488-5437

Establishes paternity and child support. Can also enforce some existing support orders.

www.myflorida.com/dor

 

Clerk of Court Depository
540 S.E. 3rd Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL
954-357-8800

Payments can be mailed to:
P.O. Box 14248
Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33301

 

Broward County Bar Association
1051 SE Third Ave
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316
954-764-8310

*Low cost legal services for family law, consumer and landlord tenant issues
*Lawyer referral service
www.browardbar.org

 

Broward Sheriff’s Office
www.sheriff.org             

Non-emergency: 954-765-4321
General Info: 954-831-8900

 

Self Help Forms Approved by Florida Supreme Court
www.flcourts.org

*Go to Self Help Family Law Forms section to complete and print FREE family law forms.

 

FloridaLawHelp.Org
This excellent site helps you to understand your legal rights in Florida.

*Go to the Forms section to obtain self help automated forms to assist with common legal problems.

 

Florida Department of Child & Families and
Economic Self 
Sufficiency Services for 17th Circuit
3511 N. Pine Island Rd.
Sunrise, FL 33351
866-762-2237

*Eligibility for cash assistance, food stamps medicaid, is primarily determined by applying online at:

www.myflorida.com/accessflorida  

 

Catholic Charities – Services include Immigration
6081 S.W.21st Street
Miramar, Florida 33023
954-306-9537
www.cclsmiami.org

 

Women In Distress
954-761-1133 Emergency
www.womenindistress.org 

*Crisis counseling for victims of domestic violence and their children. Emergency shelter.

 

Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center
954-733-6068

*Admissions Hotline:888-641-8986

Services for women (and their children) needing treatment for alcohol and drug abuse.

 

Broward Victim’s Rights Coalition
www.browardvictimsrights.org
954-602-4348            

 

Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
www.fcadv.org
1-800-500-1119 Legal Hotline

 

Americans For Immigrant Justice-LUCHA Project
www.aijustice.org
3000 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 400
Miami, FL 33137
305-573-1106

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
www.thehotline.org 
1-800-799-7233

 

National Human Trafficking Resource Center
www.PolarisProject.org
1-888-373-7888
Text: BeFree (233733)       

 



DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE (DIVORCE) A BRIEF OVERVIEW

 

WHAT IS A DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE, AND WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?

In Florida, when you want to end your marriage, it is called a “dissolution of marriage.” You or your spouse must have lived in the State of Florida for a minimum of six (6) months prior to filing for a dissolution of marriage, and you must have proof of your continued residency, generally proven at Final Hearing by letting the Judge see your Florida Driver’s License. Florida does not require that any “fault” be found in filing for divorce, only that you testify at the time of the Final Hearing that your marriage is irretrievably broken, or broken beyond repair. The proper venue (location within the state) for the filing of the divorce is where the parties last lived as husband and wife with the intent to so remain.

 
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT MAY COME UP IN A DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE ACTION?
 

  1. SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY, PARENTING PLANS, TIME SHARING:

 
If the parties have children, the Court must address all child related issues. The law in the State of Florida is called “Shared Parental Responsibility,” which means that the minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and both parents continue to share the rights, responsibilities and joys of child-rearing. Florida does not recognize either party as having “custody.” 

If there is an extensive inability to cooperate, the Court can also decide that just one parent will obtain ultimate decision making authority for school, medical, and other decisions involving the child. Infrequently, the Court may find that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child, and order that one parent be awarded “Sole Parental Responsibility.” 

The Court requires that a “Parenting Plan” be established in every case. The Parenting Plan sets forth the relationship between the parties with regard to the decisions which must be made concerning the child, and it must contain a “time sharing” schedule for the parents and child. The time sharing schedule specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, which a child spends with each parent. 

Florida law specifically prohibits one parent from relocating with the children more than 50 miles from their current location without the permission of the other parent or a court order.

In ordering the payment of child support, Florida Statutory Child Support Guidelines take into consideration both parties’ incomes, the amount of time each parent spends with the children, as well as daycare/aftercare expenses and health insurance costs. 

Completion of a four hour Parenting Course is required by both parties in all divorces involving children.

 

  1. ALIMONY:

The Court can award a variety of types of alimony including: temporary alimony, while the case is pending; bridge-the-gap alimony, which provides transitional assistance while one adjusts their life from married to single; rehabilitative alimony, which is designed to establish a capacity for self-support; durational alimony, which provides economic assistance for a set period of time; and permanent alimony, generally after a long term marriage. The Court looks at many factors in determining whether or not alimony is warranted in a particular case, including, but not limited to: the need of one spouse and the other spouse’s ability to pay, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living established during the marriage.

 

  1. DIVISION OF PROPERTY AND ASSETS:

The law in the State of Florida is “Equitable Distribution.” The Court will divide all assets- real and personal property, and debts acquired during the marriage.  The presumption of equitable distribution is for an equal division of marital assets and liabilities. However, there are many factors which the Court examines in making a final determination. The Court can depart from an equal distribution depending on specific factors.

 



LOTS OF PAPERWORK

Family Law cases require a lot of basic paperwork. The Petition is filed at the outset of the case requesting relief on behalf of the client. If there are children, a Declaration under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act must be filed. This document reveals where the children have resided for the past 5 years to ensure that Florida is the home state of the minor children. A Financial Affidavit is required if monetary relief is being sought. Family Court requires Mandatory Disclosure of documents so that each party will be fully informed about the financial situation of the other party.



WHAT IF THE LITIGANTS AGREE ON 
HOW TO RESOLVE ALL THE ISSUES?

 

  1. The State of Florida has a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” available for parties who both want a divorce, have no children, have divided all of their assets and debts. Both must go together to the Clerk of the Court for the case filing and to the Judge for the Final Hearing.

 

  1. The parties can choose to go to Mediation prior to hiring attorneys and they can attempt to settle the issues with the assistance of a third party, called a Mediator. The Mediator is not a Judge, but simply tries to work out the issues with the parties. Or, the parties may instead choose to hire their own attorneys to be sure that they have protected their respective interests. With their respective attorneys assisting, the parties may be able to settle all issues between themselves, or they may still enlist the assistance of a mediator to help resolve the issues.

 
WHAT IF THE LITIGANTS CANNOT AGREE ON A FINAL RESOLUTION?

The Court requires that the parties attend Mediation prior to scheduling a contested Final Hearing. However, if a good faith effort is made to settle at Mediation, and an agreement is not reached, the case moves forward to the Judge or General Magistrate for a Final Hearing. Depending on how busy the Judge is, it can take months to get to a Final Hearing.

One party can file for a “Dissolution of Marriage”, and the parties can then enter into a written settlement, which is signed by both parties and presented to the Court to be ratified and adopted at the time of the Final Hearing. In this situation, only the Petitioner (the person filing the divorce) must attend the Final Hearing. Three form Settlement Agreements are available on the Supreme Court site. That site is: www.flcourts.org